They are coming out at a rate so regular it has become cruelly banal. Every catch dropped by a Pakistani player; every particularly stroke that might be deemed errant in any other context will now be considered suspect. Paranoia has been given a good lease of life. Credibility has been dashed. The Pakistani cricket establishment, riddled as it were by a poisonous base of corruption, hoped to fight its way to respectability on the greens of England. Instead, it has rewarded its hosts with a string of extraordinary behaviour involving spot-fixing, the purposeful bowling of no-balls and general, all round violations of the spirit of the game.
It is hard to resist the temptation to be smug - Western cricket powers always pretended to perch on some high water mark of moral supremacy. Only 'they' did that sort of thing for on the subcontinent, the bookmaker is king. Nothing of the sort can be taken to exist in the game of cricket these days. There is, quite simply, too much money floating about in various cells in the empire of cricket. The temptation to fix a match is something that captivates more players than we would like to admit. Once money was introduced into cricket, there was very little to keep it from shaping it in its less pleasant forms. The talented and now permanently damaged pace bowler Mohammad Aamer was, at 18, another casualty of cricket deceit. The regularly bad performances by Pakistan of appallingly low totals has proven disturbing. But there is little doubt that the older players in the troupe must shoulder much of the blame. We can only speculate how they might have influenced their younger players.
When a crisis breaks in Pakistani cricket, finger pointing tends to take place in the direction of India. This situation has proven to be no exception. The former girlfriend of Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif, Veena Malik, was convinced that, 'All clues in match-fixing lead to Indian soil. India is the hub of betting in cricket' (Sify News, Sep 7). Interior Minister Rehman Malik sniffs a 'conspiracy against our team to defame Pakistan' (Channelnewsasia.com, Aug 31). In cricket, it seems, all countries are as pure as the driven slush.
The latest instalment in the circus must be the efforts of opener Yasir Hameed to torpedo his own team mates, giving the impression that they are nothing but a bunch of match fixing cads on the make in the world game. His claim that his team mates had done their best in fixing almost 'every match' Pakistan had ever played in must have been rich even by the cynical standards of the subcontinent. Giving the cricketing public an impression of greater scrupulousness, we are now left in the dark about the veracity of his allegations. 'I wish to stress I have never been approached by the NOTW [News of the World] and neither did I approach anyone connected with the News of the World to disclose any allegations concerning the Pakistani cricket team or any other players' (Times of India, Sep 7).
We were then told that, under the cover of a sponsorship offer, a certain Abid Khan (or Mazhar Mahmood) of the NOTW extracted information from the hapless cricketer. The Pakistani skipper of the one day international side, Shahid Afridi did not hold back: what we were witnessing were the antics of a 'retarded' being with a vastly limited maturity. With a camp like that, it is a wonder Hameed has not been torn apart. That would, it seems, be too logical a reaction, too regular a reading of a cricketing nation in freefall. We must simply continue to expect the worst.